by John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B.

Therapeutic Insight—The Myofascial Release Perspective: What Makes a New Year’s Resolution Fail?, MASSAGE MagazineAs you know, many new year’s resolutions quickly fade away, covered over by a slew of excuses in a short period of time. Your intelligence, your willpower, your strength will erode quickly, stolen like a thief in the night if your subconscious beliefs are allowed to dominate. 

Your conscious mind does not control your behavior, attitudes, actions or your subconscious; in fact, it is the other way around, with your subconscious controlling everything, including your physiology.

Most people have a multitude of beliefs buried in their subconscious mind that they are not aware of, which can sabotage all of their good intentions, resolutions and efforts to succeed. The subconscious lies within the entirety of the fascial system, not just in our brain as we were taught. 

Myofascial release increases our awareness in many ways. First, it allows us to get in touch with beliefs that sabotage us. Myofascial release never forces us to do anything, but it creates the opportunity for increased awareness, learning, growth and healing. 

One of the tenets I emphasize in my Myofascial Release Approach seminars is, “Without awareness, there is no choice!”

By becoming more aware, we return to a position of choice rather than blindly follow a subconscious pattern that controls our life. This is a return to freedom! How can this transpose into your therapeutic life?  

Imagine you were injured a couple of years ago. You received ongoing therapy in the form of hot packs, great massage, exercise and flexibility training, joint mobilization and muscle energy techniques, medication and psychological counseling to no avail. All of the standard tests show nothing and you desperately want to get better.

You’ve been given a multitude of different diagnostic labels and all the experts tell you there is nothing wrong. You feel imprisoned in a body that won’t respond and allow you to play and work again. You feel helpless and out of control. You think, “What if something was overlooked? What could it be?”

The instinctual “freeze response” is a subconscious protective mechanism of the myofascial system. When many of us are injured, we go into a state of shock at the moment of trauma to survive. Our fascia’s body-mind experiences an instinctive freeze response and this positional, physiological memory becomes indelibly imprinted into fascial system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic nervous systems become stuck in a state of hyperarousal that is not under our voluntary control. It is like having your foot on the accelerator of a car and the other foot on the brake. This consumes an enormous amount of energy and eventually exhausts us.

Because this positional memory becomes disassociated and locked in our subconscious, we have no awareness of it—and without conscious awareness, we have no control.

This freeze response, over time, creates holding or bracing patterns that eventually produce increased chronic muscular tone, spasm and myofascial restrictions that eventually become symptoms of pain, tightness, trigger points and/or altered physiology.

Traditionally, therapy focuses on symptoms, explaining why modalities, exercise, joint mobilization and muscle energy techniques, massage and/or medicine can, many times, only produce poor or temporary results.

Why didn’t psychological counseling help? One possibility is because the majority of psychological therapy is done in consensus consciousness. In other words, talk therapy and analysis are focused on the conscious level while the cause of the chronic symptom complex is on the instinctual level, which is not accessed by words and analysis—or by traditional therapeutic interventions or medicine.

What can help this state of shock? Myofascial release, myofascial unwinding and myofascial rebounding can help eliminate a multitude of problems and improve a person’s quality of life in many ways.

Myofascial restrictions do not show up in any of the standard tests, so myofascial restrictions that solidify these chronic holding or freeze response patterns in our bodies are missed or misdiagnosed in health care.

Myofascial release frees these powerful, structural restrictions that place enormous pressure upon sensitive structures that produce pain, headaches and restrictions of motion. Myofascial unwinding (the motion facilitation component of the Myofascial Release Approach) guides the patient into significant positions of past traumas, which eliminates the shock.

In the safety of the therapeutic environment, the therapist gently holds the client in these significant positions of past trauma. In these therapeutic positions, the client’s tissue memory releases the instinctual bracing patterns. The freeze response is then deactivated, which allows for continued structural release and elimination of symptoms.

The release of tissue memory creates awareness to return the client to conscious choice and control of his or her destiny. The client can then progress toward the ultimate goal of healing and enjoying a vibrant, healthy life.

Happy New Year!


John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B.

John F. Barnes, MASSAGE MagazineJohn F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 50,000 therapists worldwide in his Myofascial Release Approach, and he is the author of Myofascial Release: the Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: the Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000). He is on the Counsel of Advisors of the American Back Society, as well as on MASSAGE Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit